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My Secret Shame

Ladies and gentleman, I should hire a sniper to shoot me.

This is if I hold myself to the same standards I expect of others that is, which is what we all should be doing, right?

Well, in London recently, I succumbed. I donned my hypocrite’s coat and I joined the ranks of the masses who I routinely pray to the musical Gods will be struck down – or shot – where they stand.

I took out my iPhone (note: not just a “phone”) and recorded. A whole song too.  “So what?” I hear you ask.

Well I have now made my contribution to the continuing assault on the sanctity of live music. I often pray for snipers to be introduced to venues when I find myself looking over a sea of phones and cameras, all getting the same poor footage and all missing out on the same potentially great live music experience.

That connection between artist and audience is surely diluted by experiencing a gig through a little LCD screen? You could argue that they allow people to capture memories, but what use are these memories if attempting to preserve them leads to a much lessened experience?

Also, the quality (sound and picture) of most photos and video footage captured on phones and cameras is generally awful, as anyone who uses YouTube to search out music already knows.

Now I don’t mean a photo of you and your friends that takes all of a few seconds or even a quick shot of the blurry, distant stage – fair enough on both counts.

But at the Tallest Man on Earth in Vicar Street recently, there was a fella just in front of me who had a camera in the air for almost the entire gig. What for? There are countless videos of the Swedish troubadour out there already, live and otherwise, and this guy was missing out on what was taking place right in front of him.

And that’s all leaving aside the fact that your annoying loads of other people with your pointless, extended filming of gigs.  It makes me pine for the quaint days when the people clapping on the offbeat were the ones you’d roll your eyes at.

I think that constantly filming a gig is not just disrespectful and distracting for the artist, but also your fellow audience members. If it annoys and distracts me, at 6′ 4″ (thanks Naomi for the reality check!), I can only imagine what it’s like for people craning their necks to see the stage.

So what possessed me to abandon my principles so meekly? Well, the Rural Alberta Advantage.

We went to see them in Bush Hall. At the end of a great gig the band came out right into the middle of the crowd to sing us a lullaby before sending us all home happy. They stopped to sing “Good Night” right beside us. So close I lost my better judgement it seems.

I took out the phone and recorded it (offending footage posted below – in much lower quality). I was looking at it from over the phone too and just held it, so I wasn’t too distracted, but that’s not to say it wasn’t bugging the hell out of Nils Edenloff.

Having participated in the act I hate having to put up with so much, I can report back that it’s the memories of that gig I cherish (like many others) and not the footage. I have no photos or footage from Primavera last year, just memories of a wonderful week.

So sorry Nils (whom we met afterwards and seems a really down-to-earth, lovely guy), Paul and Amy. And sorry to anyone else there I inadvertently distracted during a really great moment at the end of a really great gig.

To the rest of you camera-phone=happy music heretics, I say this: “Shed your electronic prism and carpe diem!”

Interestingly, some people think snipers may not be needed as the copyright conscious music industry and Apple may be about to neuter the offenders.

This recent report from the Irish Times suggest that iPhones may soon be equipped with technology to make the recording of gigs difficult, if not impossible, as the phone will be able to determine if what’s being recorded is copyrighted material and then disable itself (the recording function) accordingly.

However, it seems the report is more than a bit sensationalist. Apple files a huge amount of patents they don’t follow through on, but don’t want others to either. They filed this one 18 months ago. Plus if you put your phone in Aeroplane mode you could bypass this straight away or if that doesn’t work people will quickly find another way.

Seems like bullets could still be the best way after all…

Strawberry Spirit

It’s not easy being a small town in rural Ireland these days.

Businesses are closing, young people are emigrating and in many cases the lifeblood of a lot of once vibrant towns is being drained away. The challenges facing these towns are huge and the government coffers are empty.

However, that’s not to say that all is lost and, to its credit, the Enniscorthy community seems to be rising to the challenge.

It’s a town I, like many others, usually just pass through on my way to Dublin, though I spent a few weeks working there last year and will again this year I’m sure.

My last visit there was for a piece for the Irish Times on the re-opening of Enniscorthy Castle, which was a great development for the town, which is steeped in history, and well worth a visit. It’s informative, uncluttered and has a nice social history aspect, always the most enjoyable part for me.

Hot on its heels was the recent installation of a new footbridge over the Slaney, which has extended the prom into a longer and (I’m assured by my colleagues from that part of the world) lovely riverside walk. I’ll be giving it a spin on my next working sojourn in Enniscorthy.

This weekend is a big one for the town as the long-running Strawberry Festival is taking place, here’s a preview piece I wrote about it.

It’s fair to say that the festival had lost its lustre in recent years and last year’s effort – for various reasons – was not well received in most quarters. But, the response to that setback has been emphatic.

The festival is back. It’s bigger and it should be a lot better. A huge amount of work has gone into it and there’s a wide range of events taking place, a lot of them for free. Crucially, the line-up of bands is a lot better too and it seems to cater for younger and older fans (Rubberbandits and Saw Doctors, Jedward and UB40 etc) .

You can check out the festival and all the various events for yourself here. Visitors from further afield than Co Wexford are being encouraged to come too and you don’t need to book into a local hotel, with camping available at Bellefield GAA grounds.

From the many fringe events, such as jazz in Market Square to a public paranormal investigation of Enniscorthy Castle (I didn’t pick up anything on my visit there!), and the big gigs on the weekend nights, it should be a fun weekend.

I hope that all the time and energy (and money) that has gone into it pays off this weekend as it’s great to see a town putting its best foot forward and trying to bring about something positive.

There are many more worthwhile initiatives underway in Enniscorthy than I have touched on here, just like there are many problems that need addressing there and in other Co Wexford towns too.

This post is not to suggest that everything is rosy in the garden in Enniscorthy, but merely to point out that green shoots have been emerging quietly this year amid what can sometimes seem like an overpowering cacophony of negative news.

Let’s hope the town can bask in sunshine for its big Strawberry weekend. If you are looking for a good day out then maybe consider heading down to Enniscorthy.

P.S. Some of my talented colleagues from this office will be in action in Enniscorthy this weekend, so make sure to cheer on Darragh Clifford in the Strawberry Half Marathon and keep an eye (and ear) out for the musical stylings of Shea Tomkins!